I love poetry. I’ve always loved poetry. I don’t know why so many people roll their eyes at the genre, at least here in the US. Poets are much more respected in other parts of the world, and their work – cultural snapshots that they can be – are seen as apt measures of political climates and changing times. Even so, I often hear that poetry is too “abstract,” or “aloof,” or “sappy” – as if the only kind of poetry is romantic poetry, and as if those descriptors couldn’t also be used to describe many works of fiction and non-fiction. So set your prejudices aside! Poetry is everything – metered or free verse, vulgar and eloquent, lofty, ordinary, painful, funny, solemn, beautiful. It can often have the charm of a short story – succinct and good for those with limited free time – or it can span pages upon pages in epic style. I’m already a day late (seriously, where does my time go these days), but I’m going to try to hit thirty days of poems here. Most of these are old favorites of mine (I haven’t had time to find anything new), but please share any recommendations of yours!
To kick us off (Day 1):
The sestina is one of the first forms that I fell in love with. There is a very famous one, by Elizabeth Bishop, but it isn’t my favorite. Like most forms, sestinas can be restrictive. There are stanzas of six lines each, and every line must end with the same six words in a specified order; the poem ends with a three-line envoi. But if the word choice is brilliant, the poem still feels natural.
The Shrinking Lonesome Sestina
Somewhere in everyone’s head something points toward home,
a dashboard’s floating compass, turning all the time
to keep from turning. It doesn’t matter how we come
to be wherever we are, someplace where nothing goes
the way it went once, where nothing holds fast
to where it belongs, or what you’ve risen or fallen to.
What the bubble always points to,
whether we notice it or not, is home.
It may be true that if you move fast
everything fades away, that given time
and noise enough, every memory goes
into the blackness, and if new ones come-
small, mole-like memories that come
to live in the furry dark-they, too,
curl up and die. But Carol goes
to high school now. John works at home
what days he can to spend some time
with Sue and the kids. He drives too fast.
Ellen won’t eat her breakfast.
Your sister was going to come
but didn’t have the time.
Some mornings at one or two
or three I want you home
a lot, but then it goes.
It all goes.
Hold on fast
to thoughts of home
when they come.
They’re going to
less with time.
Forgive me that. One time it wasn’t fast.
A myth goes that when the years come
then you will, too. Me, I’ll still be home.
– Miller Williams